Project meeting with our Russian co-leader in Tromsø

Katja collecting mussels

Katja collecting mussels: She seems to be happy about her PhD project

It was about time for the two project leaders to meet with our soon-to-be PhD candidate and our local project participants in order to discuss the first field studies of COOPENOR and to get started for real!!

The project is all about collaboration, exchange of methods and knowledge, and comparison of very different geographical areas in terms of bivalve biology and their response to both environmental variables and pollutants.

This week Igor Bakhmet (Russian PI) came to Tromsø for 3 intense days where we talked through the plan for WP1, which is the baseline study, the reference data, the search of the best ecological and physiological knowledge of our mussels and scallops. We took the opportunity also to carry out our first “extended” and official sampling point for the “seasonal baseline study”.

During our “3hrs” discussion meeting Lisa Helgason, Jørgen Berge and Jasmine Nahrgang (Univ. of Tromsø), Marianne Frantzen (Akvaplan-niva), Katja Korshunova (PhD candidate) and Igor Bakhmet (IB Karelian Research Centre) spent 5 hours eating norwegian waffles, drinking coffee and discussing the way to do the best job.

Demonstration of the heart beat device by Igor. Fom left to right: Katja, Igor, Marianne, Lisa, Jørgen

We agreed on a quite extensive sampling plan, with field trips to collect both mussels and Icelandic scallops every 3rd week. Those animals will be measured, weighted, inspected and everything that is potentially collectable of knowledge and tissue will be collected, fixed or frozen or noted in our precious lab book!

Let´s the work get started!!

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The weather changed quickly. From a sunny morning it turned into a snow storm- Jørgen on the picture retrieving the loggers.

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First environmental data

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Do you see the 2 temperature/light sensors in the water?

One of the things we want to know in COOPENOR is how much food is available at the different times of the year for our blue mussels to eat. Blue mussels are filtrating the water for phytoplankton and any other organic matter, and phytoplankton has chlorophyll to transform sunlight into energy. Chlorophyll will give a good estimate for the amount of phytoplankton available in the water.

Measuring chlorophyll is quite easy. We simply sample water and filtrate this through filters of different pore sizes. The chlorophyll captured on the filters are then solved in methanol and measured using a fluorometer.

So what did the data tell us?

Well it told us that there is not too much phytoplankton in the water in early February and that most of the measured chlorophyll came from small celled phytoplankton.

Maybe not to exciting, BUT we got our first environmental data, and we are happy!

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First experiments with our students

The project has now started for real. During the last 2 weeks we have been working hard to make our first field sampling and experiment a success!!! We went out to our local mussel bed to collect a large set of samples: our first field data point, and one of the many more to come over the next two years. Through these field campaigns and seasonal studies, we really hope to get to know our little pets and hopefully some of their little secrets?

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After a 2hr long mussel collection, back to the experimental facilities

We also took the opportunity to put some loggers in the water in this wonderful place….provided the sun is shining!

On the figure to the left, Ingeborg and Lisa are preparing for taking our mussels to the experimental facilities.

We were so lucky that day….everything was ready, all the necessary and unnecessary equipment brought with us….except that we forgot to check the tides. But that ended up, JUST FINE!

That is probably the normal “incident” that you figure out on the first trip out, before getting into the routine of sampling every few weeks!

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Happy students dissecting our experimental mussels

RESEARCH AND EDUCATION – all at once!

Together with the Tromsø students from the BIO2008 course (introduction to ecotoxicology) at the University, we sat up a small experiment to study the combined stresses of salinity and crude oil exposure.

Everyone back on the playground… some like it with stones and some like it with water.

What´s on the plan:

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Ingeborg sorting1kg gravels per bags after washing them and before oiling them!

Getting the mussels happy, and acclimate some to low salinity. First challenge: get the salinity decrease stable! For that we mix continuously flowing freshwater and saltwater together.  Ten days later, exposing them in addition to an oil spill (low levels). Second challenge: get the oiled-rock column system working. Not so much of a problem, but imagine washing 60 kg of gravels, before drying them and then mixing half of it with oil….it´s just not a proper researcher job.

The fun part and the pay off: taking the samples. So far so good!

The experiment finishes in about a week- than we are all off for a month of “vacation”. In April the second part of the course starts: the analyses!

We look forward to the next step…

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The start of COOPENOR!

COOPENOR (NRC project number 225044) is a newly financed project within the Arctos research network that will start in January 2013 and with a project period of 3 years. The project “COmbined effects Of Petroleum and the Environment in bivalves from the NOrwegian-Russian Arctic” will be led on the Norwegian side by Dr Jasmine Nahrgang at the University of Tromsø and by Dr Igor Bakhmet from the Institute of Biology of the Karelian research Centre on the Russian side. The project is funded both by the Norwegian Research Council and the Russian Federation for Basic Research and under the NORRUSS programme with main aim to “facilitate joint efforts to generate knowledge and provide a better basis for achieving optimal, efficient resource utilization and the design of solutions for reducing the risk of discharges from petroleum activities and for preventing pollution and damage to the environment” (see link below).

Picture showing blue mussel collected by Prof Jørgen Berge in Svalbard.

COOPENOR is a collaborative effort to study the effects of contaminants and environmental variability in the Norwegian and Russian Arctic, and will include one PhD student (Ekaterina Korshunova, employed at Akvaplan-niva) that will also work in close collaboration with a Russian PhD student (Julia Lukina, employed at the Northern Arctic Federal University (NArFU) in Arkhangelsk). The overall objective of the project is to provide new knowledge that will enhance the implementation of comparable tools and protocols for marine monitoring within the Norwegian and Russian sectors of the Arctic by using two well-known benthic indicator species (blue mussel and Icelandic scallop).

The project will (1) characterise the basic biology and ecology of these two key bivalve species across different regions of the Arctic, (2) determine their sensitivities to pollutant stress combined with environmental and climatic stress factors across the Barents Sea region, (3) create a “toolbox” of joint methodologies directly applicable for environmental management in the Norwegian and Russian Arctic, and finally (4) educate young scientists in fundamental and applied modern ecology and ecotoxicology within and for the High North.

COOPENOR includes 4 Norwegian, 5 Russian, 1 French and 1 USA partner institution.

Related links:
http://www.forskningsradet.no/prognett-geopolitikk-nord/Nyheter/The_Research_Council_strengthens_research_on_the_environment_and_resources_of_the_Barents_Sea/1253978601513/p1253961979600
http://www.forskningsradet.no/prognett-geopolitikk-nord/Nyheter/11_5_millioner_til_norskrussisk_polar_og_petroleumsforskning_tildelt/1253981580962/p1226994122353

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